Review of Tall Tales from Afar

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Brendan Donaghy
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Review of Tall Tales from Afar

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[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Tall Tales from Afar" by Michael M Roe.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Tall Tales from Afar, by Michael M. Roe, is a collection of nineteen short stories based on the writer’s extensive travel experiences. He is from the UK but spent his life working in over twenty different countries across the globe. The book runs to about one hundred pages, and the individual stories are quite short. The longest is about ten pages long, but the average spans roughly five pages. The author tells us on page one that he has written his book to ‘entertain and surprise.’ Does he succeed in doing that?

While the subject of the stories varies, they all reflect the author’s interest in different cultures. He is, it would seem, a great believer in the idea that travelling broadens the mind, and he conveys this belief in every tale. All the stories are told from a third-person point of view except for ‘A Ghostly Experience’, which is told using a first-person narrative. Some stories seem to be based on personal experience, while others, like ‘The Penance’, take the form of humorous or surprising anecdotes that the author has picked up on his travels.

I was certainly entertained by the book. There is a nice even tone to the author’s writing. It progresses each narrative with the same gentle rhythm. The author is also strong on the background information he provides. I finished each story feeling that I knew a bit more about the location and its people than I had before I started reading. He also conveys a deep respect for the places he is writing about. He writes in ‘Panama Shortbread’: ‘From this experience he began to appreciate, unlike most people from Europe, that there was a wider world than the inward looking and patronizing attitude inculcated by traditional eurocentric values.’ (Page 42)

The stories that stood up best, in my opinion, were the ones that didn’t rely solely on a funny or surprising ‘punchline’ for their impact; ‘A Difficult Negotiation’, ‘A Persian Pilgrim’, ‘The Magic Carpet’, ‘Panama Shortbread’, ‘An Unexpected Friendship’, and ‘The Illegal Immigrant’ all fall into this category. There is a twist in these stories, but their appeal owes more to the strength of the tales themselves rather than to the surprise element at the end. That can’t be said of every story in the collection. Some of the tales serve merely as a build-up to the surprise revelation or humorous payoff line at the end. In my view, these are the weakest in the collection and include ‘An Eventful Flight’, ‘An Acquired Taste’, and ‘The Penance.’

The book has been professionally edited, in my opinion. I found several minor errors only. I am awarding this book three out of four stars. I am holding back one star because not all the stories held my attention. That’s a very subjective reaction, obviously; other readers may well feel differently about the collection. There is nothing in the content of this book that would make it unsuitable reading for anyone. I think it’s likely that its strongest appeal will be to adult readers who enjoy travel stories with a bit of a twist to them.

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Tall Tales from Afar
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Amy Luman
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Post by Amy Luman »

Short stories are usually not my favorite, they don’t seem to have enough content to hold the reader’s attention. I am intrigued by Michael Roe’s interest in the culture of the places in some of the stories. The use of humor also grabs my attention.
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smoothcrowd
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Post by smoothcrowd »

Still reading the review, but I've got to say that I do agree with the author, on basis that travelling broadens the mind. When you travel, you meet new people and gain new experiences.
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smoothcrowd
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Post by smoothcrowd »

The story does sound interesting and all, but in the meantime, I'll consider reading (being as honest as possible)
It was a lovely review though, thanks.
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Christopherio
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Post by Christopherio »

Different cultures and adventures from different experience in different places. Seems like an interesting book. Thanks for the elaborate review.
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